Common Christmas behaviour and how to manage it
It’s fair to say that most children get excited about Christmas. It’s probably the most hyped event of the year and we now start gearing up for 25th December in early October nowadays.
It’s undoubtedly a magical time of year, but it can also lead to some challenging behaviour in children, which may need to be managed in order to ensure that everyone enjoys the holiday. It’s for everyone, after all, and shouldn’t end up with us as parents wishing it over and counting down the days until January.
There are some common patterns we will see in many children, which can be challenging, but the good news is, there are ways to manage them if we can spot them coming, or predict them.
In fairness, even adults can get over excited about Christmas, so it’s no surprise that with all of the days out, special events at school, nursery etc, family occasions, gifts, etc, etc, etc, that children will inevitably become over excited at some point over the festive period. Excitement is a great thing and adds to the fun of Christmas, but we need to manage it before it causes problems.
We all know the signs of over excitement – manic behaviour, loss of control, silliness and often tears. To avoid this happening, it’s important to plan some quieter time and activities to break up the excitement and calm things down a bit.
So for example, if Monday night is the Scouts Christmas party, Tuesday night is the school concert, Thursday is Christmas shopping after school, and granny and grandad are visiting on Saturday to take them to meet Father Christmas, try to ensure that Wednesday is a normal night at home and Friday is spent playing games as a family, or doing some Christmas crafts, to keep a balance.
It’s inevitable that all of the Christmas events, holidays from school, and excitement, will cause some disruption to routine, and often later bedtimes. While it’s not a bad thing for routines to be mixed up every now and then, it’s really important to ensure children are getting enough sleep as well.
The excitement of Christmas in itself will cause children to be tired, and less sleep will likely exacerbate the problem. Try to counter the late nights with the odd quiet night in, with a normal bed time. Or spend a morning at home watching a Christmas film together so children (and adults!) can relax and catch up on some R&R. Or even suggest a nap in the afternoon in exchange for a later bedtime that evening.
To avoid disappointment on Christmas morning, it’s really important to manage their expectations from the start. If they are asking for the latest tablet, and it’s simply not in your budget, they need to know this. With older children, you can sit down and discuss the expense, what you can afford, etc and offer alternatives that are within reason for your family.
For younger children, who won’t necessarily understand the price of things, or indeed the value of money, there still needs to be a conversation about their wishes and desires. A good time to do this is when writing letters to Father Christmas. If there are too many gifts on the list, or some aren’t within reach, you can explain that they may not get everything they want, but they are very lucky to get any presents at Christmas, but we can’t always have everything we want.
Time off school throws families together for much more time than we are used to, which can often cause arguments. If children aren’t used to being together with other siblings, or even with parents, it can be difficult for them to adjust to so much time together and different routines, etc.
The dreaded "I'm bored"
With all the money you’ve spent on toys, gifts, etc, etc, it can be hard to hear the ‘I’m bored’ chant by December 27th. The problem is, most children will have been overstimulated in the lead up to and on the big day itself, and then the calm after the storm when they are still off school can leave them a little underwhelmed.
Try to have a few things up your sleeve for the quieter week between Christmas and New Year. Plan some play dates so that they can share their new toys with friends or family; ensure some of the Christmas gift haul has some longer-lasting fun, such as arts and crafts kits; get outside for a long walk; or get them to make their own thank you cards for gifts. There are lots of things you can do that don’t have to cost the earth, but will keep children entertained before the excitement of New Year and the mayhem of back to school.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer